If you are not familiar with Rod Dreher or his writing, you may not know what the Benedict Option (a.k.a the Ben Op) is. Rod’s book will be out on March 14th so you do not have long to find out if you want to read it. In the meantime he has written numerous posts at the American Conservative. Perhaps his fullest sketch of the Ben Op was at Southern Seminary during the school’s Gheens lectures. To see his first lecture on The New Dark Age click here.
However, if you don’t have time to listen, I will try to outline a few basics about Rod’s thesis.
- The west is going through a new Dark Ages which will bring challenges to the American church. This new Dark Ages will last a long time. There will not be a quick fix and it will most likely bring different forms of marginalization and economic persecution to the Church.
- The goal of Christians during the this Dark Age should be less about propping up American Imperium and more about building an Ark to survive the flood waters that are going to sweep over the country.
- In order to reemerge at some distant point with the Gospel, the Church will have to spend more time educating and disciplining its members in a new more Christ-centered community. These communities will need to be somewhat removed from culture, but not removed geographically.
- All orthodox Christians, whether Evangelical, Catholic, or Orthodox, will need to find common cause, while drawing upon strength in their own traditions to build these communities.
- It’s called the Benedict Option after St. Benedict who founded a monastic order at the end of Roman empire. This order over the next few centuries protected and nurtured the Gospel during the Dark Ages for the West at a later date.
This is the Benedict option in a nutshell.
I want to first say that I think that Rod is right on in his analysis of the problem. Christians need to wake up that the culture wars are over and we have lost. We will not be going back to a more Christian culture anytime soon. Just in the past week the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Barronelle Stutzman here. When we look at trends among younger Americans, they are more and more lining up as non-religious. In a new study by PRRI, 25 percent of Americans are not affiliated with religion. I could show a lot more stats, but there is no point. Things are bad and getting worse.
What is new from Rod’s perspective, though, is that he does not say that will we “go back” by a political culture war, or that we are at the end of history. Rather, he brings up a new path that we are entering a Dark Age which the church must survive. It will not be a short, terrible seven years of tribulation, or even a mere three and half years (two Dispensationalists theories that have engrossed evangelicals for decades). Instead, Rod takes a long view of the cycles of God. I think this is a fresh perspective on what is happening in the US right now. And if he is right, we had better be planning on how to ride out the storm for the long-term.
So, how do we do that? And what will it be like to be in America and be on the outside as the church? What are the steps we need to survive? And importantly for this blog, how are we going to survive as a church in the collegiate setting? Will Generation Z be our best hope or the twilight of American Christianity? Stay tuned.